Return to Transcripts main page


Impeachment Inquiry Ramps Up; Federal Judge Orders Mueller Material Turned Over to Congress; Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) Is Interviewed About The Grand Jury Material From The Mueller Investigation; Source Says, Bolton In Talks About Testifying Behind Closed Doors; Senate Confirms Fifth Trump Judicial Pick Labeled Not Qualified; Thousands Forced to Flee As California Wildfires Explode. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired October 25, 2019 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Will that hurt the Democrats' investigation?

And wildfire nightmare. A new state of emergency is in effect in California, as fires rage in the southern and northern parts of the state, thousands forced to evacuate, as powerful winds fan the flames with terrifying speed.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

BLITZER: We're following breaking news in the fast-moving impeachment investigation.

A federal judge has just ruled that House Democrats can see secret material from Robert Mueller's grand jury. The judge says impeachment investigators have a compelling need for the information.

Also breaking, another wave of subpoenas, as Democrats try to force three current Trump administration officials to testify about the Ukraine scandal. At the same time, impeachment investigators are trying to secure potentially explosive testimony from former National Security Adviser John Bolton. Sources say Bolton's lawyers are in negotiations right now for an interview.

This hour, I will talk to Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.

First, let's go to our congressional correspondent, Phil Mattingly, up on Capitol Hill.

Phil, breakdown this new ruling for us on the Mueller grand jury materials and what it means for the impeachment investigation.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, there's no question it is a major victory for House Democrats on a number of different levels.

Throughout the 75-page opinion, the judge actually undercuts directly several of the key defenses the White House and congressional Republicans have given for not complying or not being willing to cooperate with the inquiry Democrats have been running for a little bit more than a month throughout this process.

Throughout that opinion, the judge notes that Democrats are, in fact, having a legitimate impeachment inquiry, something that the White House, the White House Counsel's Office has said is not the case, given -- and using that as their rationale for not complying with witness requests, for document requests.

So that is one piece of this, giving validity to the fact that, even though they have not held a formal floor vote as to whether or not to launch an impeachment inquiry, they are, in fact, in one.

Now, what does that mean going forward? There are a couple of different ways that this could move forward for Democrats. It will give them ample grounds as they pursue more witness testimony, as they pursue documents, if they need to go to court for anything else.

Also, throughout the course of the 75-page opinion, the judge makes clear that Democrats, in their Russia investigation, in their request for Russia documents have grounds to go after that as well. As you noted, Democrats have been seeking this grand jury testimony for months now.

It seems almost like years since the new Ukraine element of the impeachment and investigations has come to the forefront, but they will now get that information on October 30, pending appeal. And right now, we're told, at least up on Capitol Hill, Republicans expect that to occur. So, that could delay things a little bit.

But there's no question about it, Wolf. For Democrats that have been looking for legal victories throughout the course of this lengthy investigation process, and for the now very new impeachment inquiry, they have been given grounds on the impeachment front and they certainly scored a victory on the Russia investigation front as well, Wolf.

BLITZER: Phil Mattingly up on Capitol Hill, thanks very much.

Let's head over to the White House right now.

CNN's Boris Sanchez is on the scene for us.

Boris, House Democrats are claiming victory with this new ruling. What are you hearing from the Trump administration?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No response yet from the White House on this decision, Wolf. We are hearing that the Justice Department is reviewing this, though.

Given what the president has said previously about judges who have sided against him, we can't imagine that he's going to like this decision. We expect him to be vocal about it, because it blows up the argument that he's been making in his impeachment inquiry defense, suggesting that Democrats are acting illegally or inappropriately, Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's get to the president today. He shot back at a member of his own administration. Tell us about that.

SANCHEZ: That's right, Wolf.

The president going after Bill Taylor, his top diplomat in Ukraine, who testified this week that the president was, in fact, looking for a quid pro quo on the phone with President Zelensky of Ukraine, suggesting that the president wanted to exchange military aid for political favors.

Today, the president said that Bill Taylor, somebody who his own secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, recruited to work in the administration, is out to get him. Listen to what the president said.


QUESTION: Are you calling him a liar?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Here's the problem. He's a never-Trumper and his lawyer's a never-Trumper. And the other problem is...

QUESTION: Why did Mike Pompeo hire him?

TRUMP: Hey, everybody makes mistakes.


SANCHEZ: He's suggesting that Mike Pompeo made a mistake by recruiting Taylor.

Meantime, Wolf, the president is defending his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, as this federal probe into his associates is growing. And sources indicate that Giuliani himself is looking for a personal attorney.

Today, the president called Giuliani a fine man. Listen to this.



TRUMP: I think Rudy is a great gentleman. He's been a great crime fighter. He looks for corruption wherever he goes. Everybody understands Ukraine has big problems with that regard.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SANCHEZ: Now, Wolf, the president here defending his attorney, but we should remember some of the people who he's referred to as a fine man in the past. It's not a great group, Michael Cohen, Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, perhaps not the best omen for Rudy Giuliani moving forward, Wolf.

BLITZER: Who is under investigation himself, we're told.

All right, Boris Sanchez, thank you very much.

There's a lot happening in the impeachment investigation tonight, as new subpoenas are going out and John Bolton is in talks right now, serious talks, to testify.

Let's go to our senior national correspondent, Alex Marquardt.

Alex, as more witnesses are preparing to testify, we're getting new information about the president's actions in the Ukraine scandal. What are you learning?


We're really getting a much better sense of the pressure that President Trump was under to release that aid money to Ukraine, some $400 million of it. It had been held up for months.

But on one phone call last month, the president decided to let it go through. He was facing calls from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, as well as strong urging from Vice President Mike Pence, and he was being told that those accusations of a quid pro quo were growing.


MARQUARDT (voice-over): Tonight, multiple sources telling CNN that after the funds for Ukraine had been frozen all summer long, it was suddenly on September 11 that the president finally relented, the bankrupt move triggered by a phone call with Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman, who pressure pressured the president to release the aid because a fiscal deadline was looming.

This was a day after National Security Adviser John Bolton was pushed out and two days after U.S. ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland told the president that concerns were being raised that his actions amounted to a quid pro quo.

TRUMP: There was no quid pro quo, at all.

MARQUARDT: Bolton has, so far, remained mysteriously silent. That may soon change.

Lawyers for Bolton, according to sources involved, are in talks with the three House committees leading the impeachment inquiry about Bolton being deposed.

TRUMP: He made some very big mistakes. MARQUARDT: Sources tell CNN that a former top deputy of Bolton's

testified that Bolton called the president's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, a hand grenade who's going to blow everybody up.

REP. STEPHEN LYNCH (D-MA): It corroborates a lot of the relevant information that we had previously about Mayor Giuliani freelancing.

MARQUARDT: The inquiry is also expected to be ratcheted up next week with the testimony of Tim Morrison, the White House's senior official for Ukraine, who was on the infamous July 25 call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Zelensky in which Trump asked for a favor.

Morrison, who is the first person on that call to testify, is expected to confirm key elements of the testimony of the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, Bill Taylor, who said on Tuesday that Morrison told him that President Trump did insist that President Zelensky go to a microphone and say he is opening investigations of Biden and 2016 election interference.

DOUG HEYE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: If you have somebody directly saying, I was on the call, this is what happened, that's direct evidence that really causes problems politically and obviously legally.


MARQUARDT: Tim Morrison's name was mentioned by Ambassador Bill Taylor 15 times in his opening statement, which shows just how involved Morrison was.

Now, Taylor says that Morrison told him that he had a sinking feeling about a phone call that the president had with one of his point men on Ukraine. That's Gordon Sondland. And that is one thing he will likely be asked about next week.

Two sources, Wolf, had told CNN that Morrison will argue that he didn't say anything wrong with what the Trump administration did. Wolf?

BLITZER: Alex Marquardt reporting for us, thank you.

Joining us now, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat who serves on the House Judiciary Committee. She's here in THE SITUATION ROOM with me.

Thanks so much, Congresswoman, for coming in.

So, what do you make of the breaking news right now? Potentially, unless there's an appeal, and it could go all the way up to the Supreme Court, you might be getting all of this redacted grand jury material from the Mueller investigation.

How significant could that be?

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): It's huge. I haven't had a chance to read the whole opinion, but I will tell you,

on page two, there's a really important line there, and it is, the DOJ is wrong.

And what the judge is talking about in that one sentence is that the DOJ was claiming that we did not have the right to call this an impeachment investigation, that it was not an impeachment investigation because there hadn't been a full vote of the House, and, therefore, we could not use the powers of impeachment to compel this evidence to come to us.

The judge said the DOJ is wrong. We have every right to do this. We are in the midst of an impeachment investigation. And we are going to be able to get all of this information.

I think that deals a huge blow to Trump and his administration, but a huge victory for the American people to take on the abuse of power that we are seeing.


BLITZER: Take a look at this. We got some pages from the nearly 450- page Mueller report.

You see all those redactions, the blacked-out portions. Specifically, what might you learn? What specific information might you learn from this?

JAYAPAL: Well, one of the things that were most important to us is to see the witness testimony that underlies the report.

So it's not only those redactions that are in the report, but what did the witnesses say? And can we get the specific testimony that they have -- that they gave to Robert Mueller?

Because that gives us some of the texture, some of the details that might even be related to some of the things we're finding out now. I mean, I think that there is a lot of information here that will come out. We don't know everything we're going to find, Wolf, but it is essential for us to have this to get to the truth.

And, again, it just piles on to the narrative right now that is unfolding in front of us. The president is betraying our Constitution, betraying our values, and, unfortunately, putting our national security at deep risk.

BLITZER: The Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested she wants the impeachment inquiry to be narrowly focused on Ukraine right now.

But if you get all of these other material, are you prepared to open it up and bring up the entire Russia investigation, the Mueller probe?

JAYAPAL: Well, you know, the way impeachment articles get crafted is, it's not around a title like Ukraine. It's around the high crime and misdemeanor. And so that would be like obstruction of Congress, which was article

three in Nixon impeachment. That would be abuse of power. And Ukraine would be a critical focus, because it is right in front of us. It's unfolding right in front of us. It's easy to understand.

But all of these other things, including the things that -- some of the things that were in the Mueller report, the Emoluments Clause, are part and parcel of a pattern of an abuse of power, a pattern of obstruction.

And so I think you might see some of those things coming into any articles that might be written.

BLITZER: If John Bolton, the fired former national security adviser -- his lawyers are now talking to House investigators. If he agrees to testify, how significant could that be?

JAYAPAL: It's also significant.

But each of those things, Wolf, is like adding color to a painting. We already have the key witness in this case, testified very early to the public. And that was the president of the United States, when he admitted to asking a foreign ally to dig up dirt on an opponent and interfere in our election, and, by the way, held up congressionally approved aid to that country that was desperately needed.

So we're just adding corroboration. Each testimony is more and more evidence, and some of it more damning. But the most damning is the president's own behavior in this abuse of power.

BLITZER: The Justice Department has now decided that its review of the entire Russia investigation should now be seen as a criminal probe, a criminal investigation.

Do you believe that the Department of Justice has a reasonable explanation for this?

JAYAPAL: I think this is deeply troubling. It looks like now the Justice Department is part of the president's political operation to protect the president and not to actually speak on behalf of the American people.

And that is a real problem. This is, again, a pattern of the president using the offices that belong to the American people for his political gain. And if the Justice Department is part of that, that raises enormous, enormous questions.

BLITZER: If it is a criminal investigation, it allows John Durham, who is the U.S. attorney in Connecticut who's in charge now of reviewing everything that happened, the FISA applications and all of that -- it allows subpoena power, grand jury power.

He's highly respected, John Durham, by Democrats and Republicans. Do you have confidence in him?

JAYAPAL: Well, I think that we have to see what happens here, but it makes me very suspicious when Bill Barr, the attorney general, is off in Italy trying to find information that essentially allows them to change the focus from this very big betrayal that the president has committed against the American people and against our national security.

So we will see what emerges with that. But we continue to see Bill Barr and the Justice Department speaking as if he represents the president. And you know, Wolf, he represents the American people. But that certainly doesn't seem to be the way the Justice Department is operating.

BLITZER: On a different subject, the Trump Organization is now considering the notion of selling the Trump International Hotel here in Washington, right on Pennsylvania Avenue, down the street from the White House, because the president has come under and his family has come under all sorts of fire for ethics concerns.

What's your reaction to that?

JAYAPAL: We look at the Trump Hotel in D.C. and we call it the Washington emolument.

This is the place where foreign governments can come, the Trump Organization can charge more for a room than they might charge anybody else. It's a way of channeling money to the president. And that is absolutely against what our founders said in the Constitution, when they were so worried about just even small gifts to the president that might allow a foreign power to abuse that relationship and turn a president towards their interests, instead of the American people.


So, it's a big problem. They know it, I think. They know that this investigation is closing in on those emoluments violations. And I think that's why they're trying to suddenly get rid of it.

BLITZER: We will see what happens on that front.

Thanks so much, Congresswoman Jayapal. Thanks for coming in.

JAYAPAL: Thank you so much, Wolf.

BLITZER: The breaking news continues next.

A federal judge validates the House impeachment inquiry and clears the way for lawmakers to see redacted portions of the Mueller report. We have more perspective on what this all could mean for House Democrats.



BLITZER: Breaking news tonight, impeachment investigators are claiming a very important new legal victory. A federal judge has just ruled that House Democrats can see material from Robert Mueller's grand jury. The judge says the disclosure of the secret information is justified

by the impeachment inquiry in the House of Representatives. The Justice Department says it's reviewing the decision.

Let's bring in our correspondents and our analysts to discuss.

Jeffrey Toobin, how significant, potentially, is this decision by this federal judge?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think Judge Howell's decision is important as a principle more than the result, because I don't think there is a tremendous amount of grand jury material in the Mueller report -- you know, we have seen the redactions -- that is going to change this investigation.

But the legal principle that she applies, that this is a legitimate investigation, where Congress has a very legitimate need to get evidence, that's very important. And that could transfer to many of the fights that are going on over evidence and access to witnesses and documents that are coming down the road.

BLITZER: It's not just the redacted material, but grand jury material as well. How significant is it?

And we will show our viewers some of those pages that have been largely redacted as a result of Mueller's investigation.

SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, it's not just the specific redactions that were redacted from the Mueller report, but actually underlying grand jury transcripts as well, so additional material, over and above that Robert Mueller saw fit to put in the report.

Now, there are two big questions that I think this material could shed a little bit of light on. The first is what Donald Trump knew about those Trump Tower meeting, where Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort met with Russian representatives offering dirt on Hillary Clinton.

Donald Trump said, under penalty of perjury, that he did not have advanced knowledge of that meeting. There are some indications that there might be information related to this behind the redactions.

The other area is Donald Trump's foreknowledge of those WikiLeaks releases in advance. Again, this is a position that Donald Trump has denied to the American public. Lying to the American public was part of the articles of impeachment for both Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: There also might be some illumination on some of the Ukraine businesses -- business activities of Paul Manafort, by the way, which Rudy Giuliani seems to have taken up a lot of since Paul Manafort went away.

So I think if you're the House investigators and you want to try to figure out what is -- what was going on there, this could be interesting. I'm not sure that it's completely irrelevant, but, you know, I'm just saying, I think it's an interesting thing for them to look at.

HENNESSEY: We do know that it's not going to change Robert Mueller's legal conclusions.

PEREZ: Right.

HENNESSEY: Ultimately, he said there was no criminal conspiracy. So this really is about providing more color, so that the House of Representatives might make a different judgment.

PEREZ: Right.


And I do think, to Toobin's point, that this is an important marker to lay down that it is not just up to the president to say, oh, the attorney general that I hand-picked has cleared me, and so we're done here.

I think this is the judge sort of reminding the Trump administration that, no, no, these are co-equal branches of government. And so if Congress does decide they want to move forward with an impeachment investigation, they are entitled to this information and they are going about it properly.

And I certainly think that that is a good argument to keep in mind as we see the administration and Republican members of Congress essentially saying that, you know, impeachment is a sham process and we don't have to go along with it because we don't like it.

BLITZER: Jeffrey, I know you want to weigh in. Go ahead.

TOOBIN: Well, just for example, one of the grounds for that ridiculous sit-in that went -- took place in the Senate -- in the House Intelligence Committee this weekend by the Republican members of the House, the ground was, you know, the House of Representatives has not issued a resolution saying that the impeachment investigation should proceed.

Judge Howell very specifically says, you don't need a resolution that many impeachments, including impeachments of judges, have gone forward without resolutions.

So, you know, the process arguments, which have been the core of the Republican objection so far, seem to be falling away. And Judge Howell's decision is very much a weapon in getting rid of those arguments.

PEREZ: It's also a great reminder to the administration and the White House, Wolf, that there is a third branch of government that wants -- that has a say in some of this stuff.

I think this has been a fight between Congress and the White House. And it's a great reminder that there's a third branch. And judges in New York and here in D.C. have been reminding the White House that, hey, you know, there is a process here. And you don't exactly have it right.

BLITZER: But, Susan, I under -- no reaction, official reaction from the Justice Department yet or from the Trump administration, for that matter.


But I suspect they will appeal this, and this could go up to the Supreme Court.

HENNESSEY: It is, I think, extraordinarily likely to be appealed. There was a recent decision in the D.C. Circuit that might sort of argue in the Justice Department's favor.

If they do appeal, it is likely that it will go up to the Supreme Court. And then again, the question really is this question of delay. How long is it going to take?

PEREZ: Right.

HENNESSEY: But that important communicative value of the court saying, no, you actually have to participate in this process, you have to recognize the legitimate oversight of Congress, that's an important statement on its own.


BLITZER: The Justice Department statement saying it's reviewing, it's reviewing this decision.

Go ahead, Jeffrey.

TOOBIN: Well, no ,the D.C. Circuit is a very politically polarized court. And depending on the makeup of the three-judge panel that gets this case, if and when it's appealed, we will know a lot in advance when we know the identity of the judges.

BLITZER: Evan, you cover the Justice Department for us. Explain the implication, the meaning of this decision to now launch a criminal investigation into the Russia -- the origins of the Russia probe.

PEREZ: It's something that we had anticipated, Wolf.

We talked to Justice officials who told us that this is eventually where it likely was going to go. But it does indicate that John Durham, the prosecutor in Connecticut who has been leading this investigation, closely working with Bill Barr, the attorney general, that he at least believes that he's found something that perhaps merits -- that there is a potential crime that merits further investigation using a grand jury, using subpoenas.

We have reported that there are at least a couple of witnesses that he approached who had declined to provide voluntary interviews. So we anticipated that he was going to have to go to a subpoena to compel producing information or compel testimony. So this is where we are. We do not know what part of this

investigation has become a criminal focus. For instance, we don't know -- the president keeps saying John Brennan, Jim Comey did things wrong, guilty of treason.

We don't know whether any of that is true. As a matter of fact, we have no indication of that. But, obviously, it's an important marker that has been -- marker that has been crossed here by the Justice Department.

BLITZER: Everybody, stand by.

There's a lot more.


BLITZER: Hold your thoughts. We are going to continue all of our conversation on the breaking news that's unfolding right now.

Also, John Bolton, the president's fired national security adviser, his lawyers now negotiating, talking to House Democrats. What does that mean?

Stick around.



BLITZER: We're back with our correspondents and our analysts. And, Susan, as you know, these House Democrats, the committees, they want to do questioning of a current White House official who was actually on that controversial phone call that the president had with President Zelensky of Ukraine. They want OMB officials to testify, some more State Department officials to testify. They really want John Bolton, the president's former national security adviser, to show up as well. How significant could all of this be?

HENNESSEY: Well, it's incredibly significant that we have Tim Morrison, who is a current National Security Council official, agreeing to testify before Congress. This is an indication that the White House sort of stonewall strategy is effectively crumbling. Morrison is someone who wasn't just on that Zelensky call, but in Bill Taylor's written statement, he mentions Morrison's name more than 15 times.

The other person who is emerging as sort of a star witness here is John Bolton. Every single witness that is going in is talking about Bolton's role, Bolton's role in expressing concerns, being really worried, objecting to what was going on, really undercutting the notion that this was some sort of legitimate national security or White House policy that was going to be pursued.

Again, if John Bolton decides he wants to testify, there is almost nothing the White House can do to actually stop him.

TOOBIN: Can I just add --

BLITZER: Jeffrey, because, as you know, there's a lot of speculation that Bolton could turn out to be like John Dean.

TOOBIN: Well, Bolton, I think, is of enormous, enormous significance. Because one of the objections that Republicans have made, particularly to Ambassador Taylor, is that his information is hearsay. He didn't have direct conversations with President Trump. John Bolton saw Donald Trump every day. That's what the national security adviser's job is.

And so, if Bolton testifies in detail about his interactions with the president on the subject of Ukraine, that would be tremendously significant in either direction. I mean, if he exonerates the president, fine. If he incriminates him, fine too. But he is the person who would probably have had the most contact with the president about what he wanted to do in Ukraine.

PEREZ: And this tremendous fascination inside the White House about exactly what Bolton would do. Because, obviously, we know he has an axe to grind since leaving the White House, and they're not sure which side he's going to land on.

So I think that's one of the conversations they're having is exactly what will John Bolton do. His history tells us that he's not exactly friendly with the Democrats, but, you know, he's not happy about what happened in the White House.

BLITZER: Sara, you have been doing some important reporting on the eventual decision to go ahead and make the nearly $400 million in military assistance to Ukraine available and how that unfolded.

MURRAY: Yes. I mean one of the things impeachment investigators want to know is why the president, after sitting on this money for so many months, finally allowed it to be paid out. One of the things John Bolton wanted was for this money to go to Ukraine. He quit the day or was fired, depending on who you believe, the day before it went out.

And so we've dug into this phone call the president had with Senator Rob Portman the night that he ended up releasing this aid, as well as all these other pressures the president was facing from lawmakers and diplomats who suspected that he was engaging in this quid pro quo, from this whistleblower, White House officials were starting to learn about this complaint.


And there still isn't a clear answer about what exactly prompted President Trump to push the button. The White House has offered a number of shifting explanations, saying there was a national security review. No, there was a budget review. None of these reviews have really panned out or explained why the president decided to sit on this money for so long.

BLITZER: Speaking of the whistleblower, Susan, the lawyer, Mark Zaid, for the whistleblower says, you know, really, there's no longer any need for the whistleblower to show up.

HENNESSEY: There isn't a particular need for the whistleblower to show up. The whistleblower made his complaint based on this secondary or hearsay evidence. It has all panned out. And so the idea that you actually need to bring this person in in order to substantively hear about the sort of allegations at issue, well, you have primary source witnesses who are able to --

PEREZ: Especially with the president threatening and Republicans threatening to essentially out this person's identity, right?

HENNESSEY: Exactly. Although I think that's one reason why we can expect Republicans to essentially demand that this whistleblower come because, of course, they're going to want to try and drill down on any sort of process fouls, anything that they can do to essentially sort of divert from the substance of the issue and talk about whether or not this whistleblower complaint was properly handled.

BLITZER: The president wants him to show up. What do you think, Jeffrey?

TOOBIN: Well, I think that's right. I think there really is no more need for the whistleblower, because his complaint was, as we said, hearsay, that he said, you know, I know these other people were very upset about what was going on. Congress has now contacted these other people. They now have the partial transcript of the phone call with the president of Ukraine. I just don't see what the need is for the whistleblower.

PEREZ: It's also vindicated the inspector general, right? The inspector general looked into this and said, there is a concern here, and it is legitimate, and it turns out it has been borne out, I by the testimony.

HENNESSEY: And keep in mind, every witness that has gone in has given remarkably consistent testimony. They're all telling the same story, whether or not people who thought it was wrong or deeply concerning, they are all laying out the same exact facts.

BLITZER: Everybody, stick around. There's more breaking news we're following. Another Trump judicial nominee gets confirmed despite being labeled not qualified by the American Bar Association.

And CNN is now on the scene as raging wildfires threaten thousands of people in California.



BLITZER: Tonight, the Republican-led Senate has confirmed another one of President Trump's judicial picks despite a lack of courtroom experience.

Let's bring in CNN's Tom Foreman. This is the fifth Trump nominee who has been -- who is now heading to the bench who was labeled as not being qualified by the American Bar Association.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. The Bar Association said this nominee did not have enough experience at trial or any kind of litigation to be a federal judge. But Republicans pushed him through anyway, continuing an unprecedented remaking of the Courts by Donald Trump.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): A federal judge who, imagine this, will uphold the laws and the Constitution as they're actually written.

FOREMAN: Another judicial confirmation, another controversy.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Very few are related, not -- are called not qualified, but he's one of them.

FOREMAN: Justin Walker, 37 years old, an assistant professor of law. He's the fifth Trump judicial nominee the American Bar Association has labeled not qualified.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The nomination is confirmed.

FOREMAN: But who this week was confirmed anyway on a party line vote, backing the president's earlier proclamation, the entire court system is changing at a record pace.

TRUMP: And we are going to be putting in a lot more.

FOREMAN: It's true. George W. Bush sat 152 judges, Bill Clinton, 154, Barack Obama, 94, but they were two-term presidents. Trump has already sworn in 157.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA): Have you worked on any other criminal case?

FOREMAN: Democrats are howling over the sheer number and the idea that some nominees appear distinctly unprepared. Indeed, eight have earned that Bar Association label not qualified.

But many Democrats are even more concerned that Trump is picking judges principally because they are favorable to conservative views, on everything from immigration to gun control to gay rights to abortion laws.

CHRISTOPHER KANG, CHIEF COUNSEL, DEMAND JUSTICE: Conservatives for decades have understood that our courts are a political body.

FOREMAN: The president's supporters deny a political agenda, but they crow about how many of their picks are in their 30s and 40s.

LEONARD LEO, TRUMP JUDICIAL ADVISER: The president has said on quite a number of occasions that he looks for people who are not only extraordinary well qualified but who are young, because judges serve for life. And it's good to have someone on the bench who's going to be there for a long time.

FOREMAN: And that is already settled. Impeachment or not, re-elected or sent away, Trump's judicial legacy will remain.

STEPHEN VLADECK, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: We'll still be talking about judges appointed by President Trump well into the 2050s and even the early 2060s.



FOREMAN: And don't expect this march of judges end to anytime soon. In coming weeks, we'll see more up for confirmation, including some whose qualifications or lack of them already have Democratic alarm bells ringing -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, it's very, very significant. These judges will be in office for 30, 40 years --


BLITZER: -- down the road.

All right. Thanks very much for that, Tom Foreman.

Just ahead, the urgent fire emergency in California. Thousands of people are at risk right now. We're going live to the scene.

And the late Congressman Elijah Cummings eulogized today by former President Obama.



BLITZER: Tonight, California is under a state of emergency. Fast- moving wildfires are threatening homes and lives in the southern part of the state near Los Angeles, and in the north as well. Sonoma County, thousands of residents have been ordered to evacuate.

CNN's Nick Watt is joining us from southern California right now.

So, Nick, what's happening in your location tonight?

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, right here, more than 4,000 acres burned in a little more than 12 hours and the problem is this isn't just wild, wild country. A lot of people who live in southern California, if you pan around, you can see how the wind just pushed those flames up that ridge -- boom, destroyed that house right there.


WATT (voice-over): Red flag warnings were in place. We knew it was coming, just not where. Ignition point for this one, Tick Canyon Road and the so-called Tick Fire exploded to 200 acres in just 20 minutes or so.

Homes were lost here, in Canyon County, just north of Los Angeles.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just now -- it just lit up and I don't know if anybody is up there. I don't know if they're helping or putting out the fire. I don't know. I can see the whole structure is on fire.

WATT: Dry brush, high temperatures and those whipping Santa Ana winds gusting at over 50 miles per hour, pushing the fire forward, those flames jumping a major freeway overnight, 10,000 structures endangered, 40,000 people under mandatory evacuation orders.

CPT. ROBERT LEWIS, SANTA CLARITA VALLEY SHERIFF'S STATION: We ask that people pay attention to evacuations. It is mandatory. Many not knowing what they might return to.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What they usually suggest, they recommend that you do is that like horses and livestock is that you open gates and let them out and I never got to get up there. Two fire trucks were going up the road.

SUPERVISOR KATHRYN BARGER, LOS ANGELES COUNTY'S 5TH DISTRICT: It's hard to sit and watch your community burn, but at the same time, we need to listen to our first responders and allow them to do their jobs.

WATT: This just one of nine wildfires right now burning across the Golden State. Up north in Sonoma County, 49 structures destroyed by the Kincade Fire, nearly 22,000 acres and still burning.

Still no cause, but the local utility PG&E has now reported an outage when a high-voltage transmission line just seven minutes before this fire broke out and near the point of origin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We still at this point do not know exactly what happened.

WATT: Hundreds of thousands of Californians have had their power shut off in high-risk areas in the hopes of preventing breakouts and right now, across California, thousands of firefighters still fighting flames, still waiting for the next conflagration.


WATT: Now, the forecast for here around Los Angeles is pretty good. These winds are forecast to drop tonight, but I've just seen a brushfire pop up down near San Diego. The Miller Fire is ten acres and further north they're expecting heavy, heavy Santa Ana winds, maybe 60, 70 mile-an-hour gusts over the weekend, into Monday.

And, Wolf, PG&E, the utility have just announced they are going to cut power to more than 2 million people hoping to avoid a spark -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Oh, wow. That's amazing and very, very sad.

How does PG&E, Pacific Gas and Electric, estimate these numbers, Nick?

WATT: Well, they reckon 850,000 customers which they say multiply it by two and a half which gets you to over 2 million across 36 counties. It's a big deal, Wolf.

BLITZER: It certainly is. Nick Watt, thanks so much for that report.

Just ahead, the funeral of Congressman Elijah Cummings and the moving tribute by President Obama.






BLITZER: Finally tonight, a celebration of the life and good works of Congressman Elijah Cummings. He was laid to rest in Baltimore, mourned by family, friends and political figures from both sides of the aisle. Many of the biggest names in the Democratic Party delivered eulogies.

Former President Barack Obama remembered Congressman Cummings as a kind, strong and honorable man.


OBAMA: I was just noticing the Honorable Elijah E. Cummings, and you know, this is a title that we confer on all kinds of people who get elected to public office.


We're supposed to introduce them as honorable, but -- but, Elijah Cummings was honorable before he was elected to office. There's a difference.



BLITZER: Very good man, indeed. May he rest in peace. May his memory be a blessing.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.